Al Jazeera reported a week ago that Jordan had opened up its main border crossing with Syria, and the Syrian government is hoping that increased relations with its Western-allied neighbor would help their economic recovery following the devastating civil war: Many Arab states cut their ties with Syria during the war in which, according to the UN, at least 350 thousand people died.
Over the past decade, with backing from Iran and Russia, the Assad regime was able to crush the rebels, leaving only a sliver of land under their control with the backing of Turkey, as well as an area that is presently under Kurdish control with the backing of the United States. Assad’s victory prompted other countries to try to mend their ties with Syria.
Opening up the Jordanian-Syrian border is accompanied by an agreement that was reached by Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, to deliver Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon via Syria. “These understandings aim to boost trade exchange between the two countries to achieve the interests of every party,” Jordan’s Minister of Industry and Trade Maha Ali told the state-owned al-Mamlaka television last week.
Former Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara said that “on the same day that Jordan and Syria agreed to open up the borders, I traveled there to visit the Syrian Druze refugees who now have an opportunity to cross the border.”
According to Kara, “Jordan can now help the Druze refugees on humanitarian grounds. For many years, the Jordanians kept the border closed because they feared the Iranians. They didn’t want to allow any chance that Iranian troops based in Syria or anyone who supports the Iranians would cross the border. Now, after the visit of the Syrian Army’s Chief of Staff in Jordan, I think they agreed that it’s good for both sides to keep the border open after so many years.”
“There are millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan,” Kara noted. “They can’t cross to the other side. If they cross to the other side, they aren’t allowed back in Jordan. This adversely affected the Druze, the Yezidis, the Christians, and other refugees from Syria. By opening up the border, Jordan is helping the Syrian minorities.”
Kara believes that the fact that the border opening marks a shift in the Assad regime’s policy: “The improvement in Jordanian-Syrian relations means that the Syrians are thinking that the Iranians are a problem,” he said.
Many countries in the Middle East view Iran as an enemy now, including the United Arab Emirates. “This means that Israel is not alone against Iran,” Kara said. “This empowers Israel to cooperate with the Emirates and other Persian Gulf states against their common enemy.”
Rachel Avraham is the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”